Episode 158 – Why Am I Here – Part 7: Glorifying God
Welcome to Anchored by Truth brought to you by Crystal Sea Books. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” The goal of Anchored by Truth is to encourage everyone to grow in the Christian faith by anchoring themselves to the secure truth found in the inspired, inerrant, and infallible word of God.
Before the creation of the world, he chose us through Christ to be holy and perfect in his presence. Because of his love he had already decided to adopt us through Jesus Christ. He freely chose to do this …
Ephesians, chapter 1, verses 4 and 5, God’s Word Translation
VK: Hello! I’m Victoria K. Welcome to Anchored by Truth brought to you by Crystal Sea Books. We want to thank you for joining us as we continue a series we began a few weeks ago on Anchored by Truth. We’ve entitled this series “Why am I here?” We wanted to do this series because there is so much turmoil and confusion in the world around us right now it can be easy to get lost in it. This situation calls to mind the observation that is often made that, while Christians live in the world, this world is not truly our home. In Hebrews, chapter 13, verses 12 through 16 the writer goes through a description of the longings of some Old Testament saints for their true home in heaven. In verse 13 he says that these saints were, “living as strangers with no permanent home on earth.” I’m in the studio today with RD Fierro, an author and the founder of Crystal Sea Books. RD, how does the fact that our true home is not on this earth affect our understanding of why we are here?
RD: Well, before I comment on that I would like to add to your thanks to the listeners for tuning in today – whether they’re listening on the broadcast or podcast. We’re grateful for anyone who devotes part of their day or week with us. The observation that this earth is not our real home gives us the context for why we are on this earth. The statement is verse 13 you quoted might seem to be a sad statement but in verse 16 the writer of Hebrews follows up with “That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God. He has prepared a city for them.” So, in 3 short verses the writer of Hebrews has given us a lot of insight into a true answer to the question of “why we are here.” First, the writer tells us that our permanent home is not on this earth. That is a foundational fact that is noted throughout the Bible but it is not until the final 2 chapters of the Bible that we find out what our permanent home is.
VK: You’re thinking of Revelation, chapter 21, verses 1 through 3. “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, because the first heaven and earth had disappeared, … Then I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, … I heard a loud voice from the throne say, ‘God lives with humans! God will make his home with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them and be their God.’”
RD: Right. The permanent home for everyone who places their trust in Jesus is the City of New Jerusalem in the new heavens and new earth. Hebrews 13:13 – 16 harkens back to Exodus, chapter 2, verse 22.
VK: The New Living Translation version of that verse says, “Later [Zipporah] gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom, for he explained, ‘I have been a foreigner in a foreign land.’”
RD: Right. I actually like the way the King James Version phrases it. The King James Version says Gershom, which is the name of Moses’s son, means “stranger in a strange land.” Many people will recognize that that is the same title of one of the most famous science fiction novels of all time. Moses was primarily talking about the fact that at the time his son was born Moses was living in a land that was foreign, strange to him. Moses had been brought up in Pharaoh’s palace in Egypt but he had to flee Egypt after he killed an Egyptian. His flight led him to Midian where he married Zipporah, the daughter of Jethro, who was a shepherd. Moses would live in what some have termed “the backside of the desert” for the next 40 years.
VK: So, when Moses named his son he was still relatively new to his surroundings. We know from the name he gave his son that he still felt the unfamiliarity of the place where he found himself. So, in a very real way Moses was expressing the earthly sentiment that the writer of Hebrews would later apply in a larger, more spiritual sense. While in Midian Moses felt that he was a “stranger in a strange land.”
RD: Yes. And, as you said, in a very real way that expresses a sense that all Christians have experienced in one form or another that we too are strangers in a strange land. As some of the old-timers used to put it, “we’re just passing through.” And that is something that we have to keep in mind as we are pondering the question of why we are here. The question “why am I here” essentially has at least three dimensions for a Christian. First, we ask it sometimes because we want to be sure that our lives have purpose and meaning. Second, we may meditate on it because we wonder whether anyone really cares about the struggles we are facing – and frankly whether anyone really loves us. And third, Christians will wonder about why we are here because we want to be sure that we are fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives.
VK: Christians can wonder about whether we are fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives because Christians obviously believe in a loving, Creator God who chose us before the creation of the world. We heard that in our opening scripture from Ephesians. But if there is someone who doesn’t believe in the God of the Bible they are denied that insight.
RD: Yes. And, as we noted in our last episode anyone who subscribes to the notion that their existence on this earth results strictly from “evolution” – from the random, chaotic collision of bit of matter that toss around in undirected vortices of energy – has no firm basis for trying to derive a meaning for their life. Randomness, turmoil, and chaos are the opposite of purpose and meaning so if you ascribe the origin of life to them you have denied yourself the opportunity to find significance for your existence.
VK: But, since all human beings have an intuitive knowledge that there is a God, anyone who denies God’s existence is in an untenable, unstable position when it comes to forming a worldview. They can’t trace their existence back to a purposeful Creator – so they have no ultimate source for the existence of any purpose at all in this universe. So, when it comes to finding meaning for their lives they are standing on intellectual quicksand. That is one of the points that the Apostle Paul was making in Romans, chapter 1, verses 18 through 23. All that is left for that kind of a worldview is a profound sort of abiding hopelessness. In their worldview they could just as well have not existed as existed. Their existence is just one more cosmic accident because cosmic accidents are all that is possible in an uncreated, undirected universe. It’s little wonder that a starting axiom that denies God’s existence produces feelings of lack of worth, unimportance, and purposelessness in people who hold to it.
RD: Yes. The person who denies God’s existence begins the contemplation of why they are here is in a double deficit. First, they have no ultimate source of purpose in the universe. And second, they constantly feel the struggle of having to suppress their intuitive knowledge of God. The Greek word that is translated as “suppress” is the same word that would have been used for trying to hold back a great weight or compress a strong spring. It takes effort to suppress the knowledge of God. The situation is different for the Christian. Christians know there is a God and that He purposefully created us.
VK: But Christians also know that the creation in which we live is a fallen creation. This creation does not exist in the same state in which God originally created it. The Bible tells us that creation itself was affected when Adam and Eve sinned – and that even now it is not the way God originally intended. Romans, chapter 8, verse 22 says, “We know that all creation is still groaning and is in pain, like a woman about to give birth.” That’s from the Contemporary English Version.
RD: Right. The Christian lives with the constant awareness that things in this universe are not right. But, as we started out saying we also know that we are just “passing through.” So, for a Christian the answer to “why we are here” has an inextricable link to what we should be doing while we are passing through.
VK: And in our last couple of episodes we noted that what we are to be about while we are passing through can be thought about in 3 different categories: our character, our career, and our calling. We are on this earth for a matter of decades – a few of us may live beyond 100. But we will be in our permanent home in the new heavens and new earth for eternity. And the only thing we will take from this earth to our heavenly home is our character and our record of any deeds we have done for Christ. One of the big reasons we are on this earth is to develop that character we will possess for an eternity. Sometimes, I really hate thinking about that.
RD: And any sober Christian does. We have all fallen short of God’s best for our lives and that’s why we celebrate God’s grace. God’s grace gives us what we could never achieve for ourselves. That means we can begin wherever we are, right this moment, to begin seeking to improve our characters in the manner in which God calls us.
VK: Which is to be holy. We have noted in previous episodes in this series on Anchored by Truth that while the Bible may not be precise about what career we should follow or what our calling for the kingdom is, the Bible is crystal clear …
RD: Crystal clear ... as in a crystal sea …
VK: ... nice plug … any way the Bible is crystal clear that we are called to be holy even as God is holy. Most people think of the term “holy” as meaning sacred or pure – and that’s fine. But the primary meaning of holiness is to be “set aside” – holy things and people are set aside for God’s use. To be holy is to mean that our lives are set aside from the world and dedicated to God.
RD: Yes. So, when it comes to knowing why we are here insofar as our character is concerned – the reason we are here is to be holy. And we spent the better part of the last two episodes of Anchored by Truth talking about what the Bible has to say about why we are here insofar as it concerns our careers and our callings.
VK: And we noted that when it comes to careers we made the point that carefully reading the Bible reveals that God uses people from a wide variety of jobs and vocations in His service. Sometimes people might get the idea that you must become a preacher, missionary, or church worker to be in a vocation that is pleasing to God but that isn’t true. And we mentioned the verse from Exodus where God called two specific Israelite men to make the furniture and fixtures for the temple demonstrating God’s approval of craftsmen, artisans, and people who work with their hands.
RD: Right. And when it came to discussing our calling we pointed out that our calling for the kingdom may be directly related to our careers and jobs but it doesn’t have to be. Robert Letourneau’s name is well known in the construction field because even though he dropped out of school in the 7th grade he held over 300 patents in the field of earthmoving. Letourneau’s sister challenged him at an early age to get serious about serving God. He thought it meant he should be a preacher or a missionary. But after praying with his pastor about it his pastor told him “God needs businessmen too.” So, Letourneau became what he called “God’s business partner.”
VK: And Letourneau was a very successful business partner for God, wasn’t he? Letourneau eventually gave away 90% of what he earned to charitable projects all over the world. He once said, “I shovel money out and God shovels it back, but God has a bigger shovel.” Letourneau is just one example of someone who fulfilled a calling to serve God through amazing giving even though his career was designing and building earth moving equipment. And for anyone who missed those episodes of Anchored by Truth links to those shows are available on our website crystalseabooks.com or on your favorite podcast app. So, as we’re coming to the end of this “why am I here” series what do you want to emphasize as we begin our wrap up?
RD: Well, what we have seen throughout this series is that in order to know why we are here we must understand that we live in a universe created by God. But that creation fell when Adam and Eve sinned. And, ever since the fall, God has been engaged in a plan of redemption. The climax of that plan was when Jesus came to earth, adopted a human nature in addition to His divine nature, and paid the sin debt that we all owe. We live in that time between Jesus’ first coming as the suffering servant and His prophesied second coming when He will be the conquering lion. That will usher in the end of this phase of human history where all who place their trust in Jesus for salvation will enter their permanent home. So, as we think about why we are here we have to keep all that in mind.
VK: And we can’t do that without knowing the Bible. That’s one point we have emphasized throughout this series. We must be familiar with the Bible to understand God, God’s will for us, how God has interacted with people in the past, and God’s plan for the future. This information is crucial if we truly want to know how we fit into God’s creation. And it is God’s creation despite what our modern culture would like to insist. And that’s frankly one of the reasons that surveys about people’s attitudes today reveal so much hopelessness and dissatisfaction. People don’t want to base their lives on the reality that we bear God’s image. If we reject God we reject basis for our own existence, purpose, and meaning.
RD: Yes. So, one of the big points I really want to get across as we close this series is that we have to come to grips with the fact the reason we are here has to account God’s purpose for creating people in the first place.
VK: And that purpose is?
RD: As we mentioned in our very first episode in this series one of the old creedal statements is that the chief purpose of man is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” I fully realize that is not a popular sentiment today but that does not make the statement less true or meaningful. We are never going to have a satisfying answer to the question of why we are here unless we recognize that we are here to glorify God – and we will all do that one way or another.
VK: Well, I think you’re right that most people today do not have much, if any, interest in glorifying God. It’s sad to say but most people are more interested in glorifying themselves. But as the Bible says in Matthew, chapter 6, verse 24, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” So, if our principle aim is to glorify ourselves then we will not be seeking to glorify God. Conversely, if we have been saved by the blood of Jesus we cannot help wanting to proclaim His excellence. It’s a stark contrast. Why do you think people today resist glorifying God?
RD: I think people misunderstand the idea of glorifying God which is both sad and curious because a great many people have no problem glorifying less noble entities than God.
VK: What are you thinking about?
RD: People today will quite often be willing to glorify sports figures, entertainment celebrities, political candidates, and any number of earthly organizations. Walk around any town or city and you will see someone wearing a sports jersey for a particular college or professional team in a wide variety of sports. And quite often they will have the jersey from a particular member of that team – the quarterback, a pitcher, or a goal tender. So, the people who will do that do not only want to identify with an organization but also with a particular person.
VK: I see what you mean. Kids will leave their house adorned with images of cartoon or animated movie characters. They will have “princess this” or “hero that” on their clothes, shoes, or backpacks. Teenagers will buy sunglasses, sports gear, or cosmetics because they have seen a celebrity wearing or using the item or because an “internet influencer” included it in a video or selfie. And adults will identify them as a fan of a particular city’s team or even sometimes some well-known food item or style of cuisine.
RD: Yes. People have no problem identifying with and therefore glorifying all kinds of famous people, places, or things. In other words people don’t resist of attributing glory to a great many earthly things, but they balk when it comes to doing that same thing with the Lord of the universe. Make no mistake – if you buy and wear a jersey from your favorite sports figure you are giving that figure glory because you are telling the world that you are so impressed with that person that you want to identify with them – and you want the world to know that you identify with them.
VK: But I am sure that a lot of people would say they are not trying to glorify that sports figure – they are just displaying their loyalty to them.
RD: The question is why do they feel loyal to that team or person? And the answer is going to have something to do with being born or living in that city, being impressed by something the team or figure did, and wanting to let the world know that. And that’s fine. I’m not trying to get people to not buy team jerseys or be less proud of where they are from. But what I am doing is pointing out that if we are willing to be so open about our loyalty or dedication to lesser, earthly entities why would feel any reluctance to simply do the same thing with God.
VK: So, you’re saying that if we don’t mind glorifying things on the earth why would we resist glorifying the One who made the earth?
RD: Exactly. Theologians speak of two types of glory associated with God. God possesses intrinsic glory but there is also something called ascribed glory. Intrinsic glory is the glory God possesses just because of who He is – the Creator, the Sustainer, the Perfect, the One Without Shadow …
VK: … which is the name you used for God in your book The Prodigal’s Advocate...
RD: … yes ... because God has no imperfections or flaws that would create a shadow. God’s intrinsic glory cannot be increased or decreased by anyone or anything. He possesses it in perfection and ultimate majesty. But ascribed glory is the glory God receives from His creatures. And those creatures can either render it, if they are wise, or not render it if they are foolish.
VK: Because it is foolish to try to withhold acknowledging that which another already possesses.
RD: Exactly. So, to put in plainly, one reason that we are here is to learn that God is entirely worthy of receiving glory and also to learn how to properly express it. But what so many don’t realize is that if they attempt to withhold the expression of glory to God the only person they are denying is themselves. We identify with sports figures, teams, cities, etc. because it helps us feel like we belong, like we are connected. That’s an understandable, a reasonable motive. But if that is true of earthly things it is far truer of heavenly ones. When we seek to glorify God we will feel – and be – far more connected to Him.
VK: We’ve mentioned many times during this series that human beings bear God’s image. But since the fall the image that we bear is a marred one. Our ability to reflect God is marred by sin. But, as Dr. Sinclair Ferguson has said, “God wants His image back.” And I think all Christians feel that innately. Even non-Christians feel the weight of God’s presence in their lives. Romans, chapter 1, makes that very clear.
RD: Right. So let’s be even more pointed about the fact that glorifying God is not only our purpose in life – a central part of why we are here – it is essential. I often hear people say they want to feel God’s power in their lives, or they want victory in their faith, or they want to know God’s will for their lives. It’s essentially the same sentiment expressed in different ways. Well, anyone who wants to truly experience God’s power must begin by glorifying God. If we want victory or power or spiritual authority we will get it if, and only if, we consciously set out to glorify God.
VK: As you wrote in The Prodigal’s Advocate when a mighty king prepares a great banquet and the easiest way for the king to show his servants the banquet was successful is to invite them to taste the feast for themselves. So, if we genuinely desire God to be glorified, the best way for God to show us that our desire is fulfilled is for God to bring us close to Him. Our desire for God’s glory animates God’s heart to pull us to Him. And, clearly, the closer we are to God the more of His power and victory we will experience. As Nehemiah, chapter 8, verse 10 says, “the joy of the Lord is [our] strength.”
RD: Exactly right. Sometimes a sports hero may invite one of their fans to sit in their box or even be on the bench beside them. And such a fan would talk about that experience for the rest of their lives which would add to the hero’s “glory.” Well, when we glorify God in prayer or by reading the Bible God invites us to come into His very throne room. So, glorifying God is not just a sort of casual recommendation that we may choose to implement or not. It is the essence of the answer to why we are here. And the more we seek to glorify God the more clearly He will give us answers to our specific questions about our careers, callings, relationships, etc.
VK: What we are saying is that far from the evolutionary idea that the universe operates on its own in a chaotic way, God has actually designed creation and He has prepared a special role for us in that creation. And the best way for us to get a truly satisfying answer to the question why we are here is to set our hearts on glorifying God, seek to understand Him through His word, and then trust him to guide, provide, and keep us by His side. The more we try to glorify God the more He will ensure we see His glory by drawing us ever more strongly into His kingdom. This sounds like a great time for a prayer. Today, since Mother’s Day is approaching let’s listen to a prayer for our mothers. Praying for our mothers is a great way to fulfill the 5th of the 10 commandments as well as seeking to bring blessing into their lives.
---- PRAYER FOR MOTHERS
VK: Before we close we’d like to remind our audience that a lot of our radio episodes are linked together in series of topics so if they missed any episodes in this series or if they just want to hear one again, all of these episodes are available on your favorite podcast app. To find them just search on “Anchored by Truth by Crystal Sea Books.”
If you’d like to hear more, try out crystalseabooks.com where “We’re not perfect but our Boss is!”
(Bible Quote from the God’s Word Translation)
Ephesians, chapter 1, verses 4 and 5, God’s Word Translation